Authors of an essay that appears in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine analyzed several of Beethoven’s compositions for clues of a heart condition some have speculated he had. The rhythms of certain parts of renowned works, researchers say, may in fact reflect the irregular rhythms of Beethoven’s own heart caused by cardiac arrhythmia.“His music may have been both figuratively and physically heartfelt,” says co-author Joel Howell, M.D., Ph.D, a professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
“When your heart beats irregularly from heart disease, it does so in some predictable patterns. We think we hear some of those same patterns in his music.”“The synergy between our minds and our bodies shapes how we experience the world. This is especially apparent in the world of arts and music, which reflects so much of people’s innermost experiences,” Howell adds.
… Take for example the final movement “Cavatina” in Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, Opus 130, an emotionally-charged piece that Beethoven said always made him weep. In the middle of the quartet, the key suddenly changes to C-flat major, involving an unbalanced rhythm that evokes dark emotion, disorientation and what has even been described as a “shortness of breath.”
In the composer’s directions to musicians playing the piece, the section is marked beklemmt, a German word that translates to “heavy of heart.”